Wendell Potter Twitter thread on health insurance industry during the coronavirus pandemic

Former Health Insurance Executive Warns Public To Watch Out For Industry Trickery

As cases of coronavirus continue to spread across the U.S., the former vice president of health insurance company Cigna penned a Twitter thread warning the general public about how these corporations will be approaching the crisis. This, he believes, will mainly include waiving smaller fees to make themselves look like heroes while refusing to cover the actual treatment for COVID-19 complications as much as they possibly can.

Wendell Potter warns that although CEOs of health insurance companies like Cigna may be promising to cover copays for treatments related to the coronavirus, he doesn’t believe them for one second.

“The president said that insurers ‘have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments,'” he writes. “Don’t count on that. Insurers’ biggest trade group (‘AHIP’) said soon after Trump’s speech that what insurers would waive would be cost-sharing for testing. Not treatment.”

Potter explains that health insurance companies can’t waive all copays and other expenses for this pandemic as their shareholders would rapidly abandon them if they did so. The industry has to keep its denial rate between 15 and 20 percent to prevent this from happening.

“As part of Obamacare, insurers have to spend at least 80-85% of premiums on health care. So most try to keep the ratio right at those levels. If it creeps up significantly, shareholders run for the exits.”

He further points out that regardless of any promises thrown out to the public, Cigna’s official policy only states that they will cover testing costs but is silent on copayments and deductibles. UnitedHealthcare’s, meanwhile, offers a lot of vague platitudes but not extra coverage for COVID-19 treatment—only tests.

“Any care or treatment for COVID-19 will be covered in accordance with your health benefits plan,” says UnitedHealthcare’s webpage on the coronavirus. “Your deductibles, copays and coinsurance will apply.”

Potter reminds us that for-profit health insurance companies are just that — for profit. They only really care about how much money they can make and keep, and their only fears right now are around people noticing how far they will go to protect those profits and how they are responsible for so many people having to beg online just to live.

One silver lining to this pandemic is that it might finally expose the greed that makes up the foundation of the health insurance industry to enough people so that the U.S. public finally demands something that actually works for them.

Potter’s thread has spread rapidly since he posted it on Friday, with just the first tweet reaching nearly 30,000 shares. He ended the thread by calling for Medicare for All.